K littera

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K littera eiusdem potestatis est apud grecos ut apud nos preter quando antecedit ei gamma quod est .g. mutat ipsum .g. in sonum littere .n.
arabes vero duplex habent. Unum vocant kef. Aliud kaf.


Apparatus:

littera ABC efj | lictera p
eiusdem | eius p
{potestatis} est om. p
{ut} est add. B efjp
preter om. f
quando ABC jp | qñqʒ ms. e | quem? f
antecedit ei AC p | ei antecedit B efj
gamma AC efj | gama B | gamã p
quod est .g. om. f
mutat | mutant B j
{littere} n | u. ms. p
vero om. fj
vocant ABC ejp | uocat~ f
{vocant} kef (et add. f) aliud (alterum p) kaf (chaf f) ABC efp | kaf aliud kef j
kaf ABC ejp | chaf f
|et cetera add. j


Translation:

The letter "K" has the same pronunciation with the Greeks as it has with us, except if it is preceded by gamma, which is their "g"; then it changes the "g" into the sound of the letter "n". The Arabs have in fact two "k"s'; one they call kef and the other they call kaf.


Commentary:

Greek:
For more information on the Greek spelling γκ {= "gk"}, which is pronounced /nk/, {IPA [ŋk]}, see G littera.

Arabic:
The Arabic letters Simon refers to represent two distinctive sounds in Arabic, which are usually both heard as /k/ by Europeans, and Simon is no exception. The two sounds are ﻚ ﻛﺎﻑ /kāf/, the 22nd letter of the Arabic alphabet, for which Simon writes kef, and ﻕ ﻗﺎﻑ /qāf/, the 21st letter of the Arabic alphabet, for which Simon writes kaf.
English has two sounds very similar to /kāf/ and /qāf/, but they are not distinctive. They are produced automatically in words like King {/kāf/} as opposed to Kong {/qāf/}. In many transcriptions and transliterations, as in ours, /kāf/ is written as /k/ and qāf as /q/. N.b. witness f is distinguishing between the two sounds by writing respectively kef and chaf.

Although in Arabic the vowel is written the same for both letter names, in each case the pronunciation of the vowel is affected by the consonant that precedes. Thus /kāf/ tends to have the vowel similar to the vowel in American English "ask", {IPA [æ:]}, which would however be heard by most Europeans as an /e/ sound as in "end" but pronounced long; and the vowel in /qāf/ tends to be similar to the vowel in American English "caught", {IPA [ɒ:]}, again heard by many Europeans as sounding like /a/ in Southern British English "ask"", or possibly a prolonged "open o" sound as in "pot". Cf. Gairdner (1925: 46ff).

C/K doublets:
It is interesting to see that Simon does not comment on the functional overlap between the letters "C,c" and 2K,k", where the two letters often stand for a phonetically identical sound. This should have been obvious to Simon, for he quotes many doublets in Greek, e.g. Calamos and Kalamos, and many more in Arabic, e.g. Calb and Kalb. This "blindness" is due to the fact that until quite recently no clear distinction was made between the concepts of "sound", an auditory event, and "letter", a visual representation of a sound. Without this distinction a person's analysis of the sounds that make up a word is fixed on the spelling, and if something is spelt differently it is automatically assumed to be somehow phonetically different as well.


WilfGunther (talk) 04/12/2013


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